Thursday, November 15, 2007

News Release: Original Plaintiffs Comment on Today's PA Hate Crimes Decision

American Family Association of Pennsylvania



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 15, 2007

CONTACT:    Diane Gramley  1.814.437.5355 or 1.814.271.9078


PA Hate Crimes Law Declared Unconstitutional!


(Harrisburg) – Today the Commonwealth Court handed down a decision declaring Pennsylvania’s hate crimes law unconstitutional.  Since its passage and subsequent signing into law by then-Governor Mark Schweiker, many had claimed that the bill – H.B. 1493 -- had been passed in an unconstitutional manner.  The American Family Association of Pennsylvania (AFA of PA), a statewide pro-family group, expressed relief about today’s court decision.


“The AFA of PA and others have argued since November 2002 that gutting an agricultural vandalism bill dealing with eggs, milk and fruit trees and making it into a hate crimes bill was not simply wrong but also violated Pennsylvania’s Constitution.  Today the Commonwealth Court agreed with us,” commented Diane Gramley, president of the AFA of PA.


In June of 2003 Gramley and Fran Bevan, president of Pennsylvania Eagle Forum, were plaintiffs in a similar lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of H.B. 1493.  Each was involved in the lawsuit as individuals and not in their official capacities nor representing their respective organizations.  In July 2005 that lawsuit was dismissed saying that neither Gramley nor Bevan had legal standing in the case.  Only Judge Pellegrini dissented in that decision saying that as citizens of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania both had standing. 


Since the initial lawsuit challenging the law’s constitutionality, eleven Christians were arrested in Philadelphia in October 2004 and charged with a hate crime.  Seven of these individuals were plaintiffs in the refiled challenge – surely their standing would not be in question!


“All citizens who take our PA Constitution seriously should be grateful for today’s decision.  Legislators must follow the rules when creating new laws in Pennsylvania and not gut bills to create something that was never intended by the original authors of the bill,” further commented Gramley.


Only newly retained President Judge Bonnie Leadbetter dissented in today’s decision.


From today’s court decision:


“ . . . we agree with Petitioners that HB 1493 did not retain its original purpose as it moved through the enactment process.” (page 8)


 “Therefore, we conclude HB 1493 was altered to change its original purpose and Petitioners are entitled to summary relief on this basis.”  (page 9)




# # #

No comments: